Yes, you can travel healthy in Milwaukee! There's healthy dining (gluten free and vegan), drinking and exercise options for those who can’t take one more beer or brat sitting on their butt!
Thanks to Visit Milwaukee for hosting my trip and showing me healthy Milwaukee.
As a juice loving, gluten free, dairy free Angeleno, I always put Milwaukee in a category on the opposite end of the healthy spectrum compared to my hometown of LA. So when I heard that Milwaukee was now offering a range of food and drink options that spanned the health horizon, I packed my running shoes (and paleo bars just in case) and went to investigate.
At the end of the weekend, I was surprised and delighted with all of the clean eating, farm to table, vegetarian and vegan dining options Milwaukee was serving. There's also local produced spirits, wine bars and many places to work off all of the above!
Here’s where I ate healthy, gluten free and dairy free food in Milwaukee. I've also included spots to exercise and places to drink something besides beer!
Braise is a serious farm to table player in Milwaukee. The chef and owner of Braise, Dave Swanson, started by trying to figure out how to source the highest quality, local ingredients. He saw the Wisconsin farmers driving directly to Chicago to drop off their produce, completely bypassing Milwaukee. He started a conversation with the farmers and eventually got a Milwaukee stop added to their route. Swanson went on to create the nation’s first RSA, or restaurant supported agriculture, supporting the local culinary community.
Braise has a rooftop garden that can hold up to 2,000 gallons from a single rainfall, cutting down on pollution, water use and energy costs. You can also find a collection of beehives on the roof for homegrown honey.
More than 40 Wisconsin farms contribute to the restaurant’s seasonal menu, which includes vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free dishes. They even mark it right on the menu so you know exactly what's in each dish. You might see braised summer greens, tallow poached turnips, grilled sockeye salmon with summer squash ratatouille and ginger soy smoked beef brisket.
If you want to get even further involved in your food, Braise has a culinary school on site, offering single session classes to hone your knife skills or you can enroll in their 10-week culinary boot camp for a full culinary overview.
You won’t know which meal to stop in for at Story Hill BKC, so consider sampling them all. It’s part restaurant, part wine and cocktail shop, and part bar. It’s always busy, so try and reserve in advance.
Like Braise, Story Hill has strong relationships with nearby farmers to source the majority of their products. You can walk across the street from their restaurant to get a sneak peek of some of the greens you may be eating at your meal. A greenhouse grows fresh lettuce, vegetables and herbs. They’re also raising fish there through hydroponics.
On the menu you might find cauliflower salad with pesto and chili flakes, Milwaukee beef tartare, smoked duck and pear salad or chicken meatballs with truffle honey. If you tell the waiter about any food allergies you have, he’ll be able to direct you to the safest menu items or help you create something that works for you.
With a great beer and wine list, you’ll be hard pressed to choose between one of the local favs or one of Story Hill’s hand-crafted cocktails. The good news is that you can't make a wrong choice.
Beerline Café is an environmentally friendly, casual, vegetarian restaurant on Commerce Street, a block off the Milwaukee River. You order at the counter and can take your meal outside for a water view, or stay inside the funky café and admire the greens growing up the high ceiling.
Beerline Café achieved Milwaukee’s first three-star Green Restaurant Association rating. They’re using local ingredients to bring a healthy mid-west flair to breakfast and lunch.
You’ll find whole food salads, Buddha bowls and “cromelettes,” a hybrid mix of an omelet and crepe that you can have mixed with different vegetables. There are vegan and gluten free options available at Beerline. It’s a great spot for a fast, inexpensive, healthy meal.
This bakery is one of the first in Milwaukee to ditch grains, gluten, dairy and cane sugar for a healthier alternative to muffins, scones, bread and cookies. Blooming Lotus is perfect for allergy sufferers looking for a sweet or savory treat.
They also serve responsibly sourced coffee, tea and dairy-free milk.
Enjoy a nice long walk up along the water to Blooming Lotus’ east side location, and then reward yourself with a gluten free, vegan cupcake or muffin.
The bakery owner is the founder of the Milwaukee Yoga Center and is excited to be bringing healthier baked goods to the area.
Beans & Barley is down the street from Blooming Lotus and is a deli, market and café. It’s a good spot to stop in and load up on some supplies.
The deli counter has prepared salads, but you can also grab your own fresh produce in the market.
The small café in the front has salads, sandwiches, eggs and burritos. I had a freshly blended electric green smoothie with kale, apple, pear, spinach, parsley, cucumber and lemon – yum!
Milwaukee has a spacious covered public market in the Historic Third Ward neighborhood. This market can fulfill most eaters’ tastes with dozens of stalls offering a variety of dishes.
St. Paul Fish Company has, you guessed it, fresh fish and seafood. The Green Kitchen will make a custom salad to ensure it has everything you want, and especially the things you don’t. There’s a soup and stock market, Thai Cuisine, Mexican food and several places for coffee, beer or wine.
You can also jump in on cooking classes at Milwaukee’s Public Market, or host an event of your own there.
While Bel Air Cantina may not be the healthiest Milwaukee restaurant on this list, it may be the most fun. Their outdoor patio backs up to the Milwaukee River and makes for a great spot to enjoy a margarita made with 100% fresh lime juice. Mix it with charred pineapple or cucumber and mint for a unique twist.
There are vegetarian tacos that go beyond black bean and corn with combos like roasted veggies and kale, or broccoli and artichoke. There's a taco and tostada salad, hominy shrimp soup and of course a large range of tacos, fajitas and burritos. I enjoyed the Cali Guac with roasted pineapple and pomegranate for even more fruit with my avos.
When you're on a very specific diet, it helps to have a good grocery store nearby. Whole Foods always delivers in this department. The Milwaukee Whole Foods is on North Prospect Avenue, not far from Blooming Lotus and Beans & Barley, so you can eat your way down the road with a lot of allergy-friendly fare.
In addition to eating healthy in Milwaukee, you can also drink healthier. You're not just subjected to gluten filled beer. Balzac is one of Milwaukee's great wine bars. With a diverse wine selection from around the world, they also serve small plates and craft cocktails. You can choose from salads to veggie plates, meatballs and BBQ shrimp.
Balzac also notes on the menu what items are vegan, gluten free and dairy free. The vibe is friendly and even date-worthy.
Milwaukee doesn't just brew beer - they also do spirits too! Great Lakes Distillery is in the heart of the city and is producing small batch spirits like vodka, whisky and gin. You can tour the facility to see the old world methods they use, and then after, enjoy a thorough sampling of some of their products before purchasing. Their tasting room also includes a food menu with gluten free and vegan options.
Colectivo has been serving well-sourced coffee and teas in Wisconsin for nearly 25 years. You can also find vegetarian and gluten free scrambles, sandwiches and salads to go with an addicting dairy free Green Hornet smoothie with apple, kale, cucumber, celery and lime juice.
Exercising in Milwaukee
Luckily there's plenty of places around Milwaukee to work off your food and drink! There’s an extensive network of places to get your sweat going. From walking, running and biking paths all across the city to gyms, yoga and pilates studios on nearly every corner, Milwaukee doesn’t actually look that much different than Los Angeles’ fitness scene, except that we may have better tans come February!
My Milwaukee trip was so enlightening. I love the healthy options available all over the city, and look forward to another trip in the future!
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Visit Milwaukee hosted me, but all opinions are always my own. Learn more about Milwaukee here.